Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Revan by Drew Karpyshyn

Writing a novel in a shared universe must be a difficult task. It may be more difficult if the era you're writing about is not the standard, such as this Star Wars novel set during the Old Republic. Revan is a character in an older game that helped make that Old Republic a viable property and one that companies like Dark Horse and Del Rey have visited several times, not to mention a very popular MMO that's supposedly stealing players from World of Warcraft.

But in terms of this specific novel of the Old Republic? Pass. My brief review is that its jumbled by time skips and by making too many choices that seem very odd to even a casual reader of Star Wars. Mind you that the Clone Wars sometimes have this problem as well where characters apparently forget they have other abilities than just jumping around and swinging light sabers so maybe it was the set up which caused this novel to fail. It's not the worst novel I've ever read, but it is the worst novel I've read this year.

Having said that though, there were some things I'll discuss specifically so if you wish to avoid spoilers, read no further.

The Jedi in this book are portrayed as narrow minded idiots who brim with hostility and no common sense. While it goes against their own code, and something that the main character verbally jabs another one of the Jedi for, it showcases that any organization, no matter how noble or righteous, can go rogue or too far in one direction.

Even the fabled comic, Order of the Stick recently touched on this subject as well. I myself played a paladin who took a PrC that allowed him to smite anyone, not just evil enemies. Pushing the boundaries of what is good and normal can make for some interesting role playing experiences but if the Game Master does it and does it too often, there should be a valid reason for it that needs to be reflected in the campaign.

For example, if an order of paladins doesn't like the players, and the players are typical murder hobos, that's probably understandable. On the other hand, if the players are members of the local militia and have saved the town several times and the town folk are reacting as if the paladins are right, the players are getting screwed in this deal unless all of them are under mind control.

Am I saying that the paladins can't dislike the players? No. And if the players hear the paladins out preaching about the evils of the characters and how despite those characters military victories that their spiritual hollowness rings out, that can go a long way in establishing a rivalry. Indeed, if the players aren't careful they could end at burned at the steak as witches.

Another bit that might not work well in a game is a time skip. There are two of them here. One when Revan is captured for years and that time just snaps by and another where Revan is.... yes, captured again but this time the span is much longer and he doesn't escape. If you and your group are comfortable with large time skips, then by all means do so. It's a great way to introduce younger siblings, or on a large enough jump, a new generation of characters. Mind you this doesn't always work as the readers and writers of Dragonlance, and of course, Star Wars the New Republic know, but nothing ventured nothing gained.

From a gaming prospective, one of the things I least like about the skip ahead, is trying to determine if the characters gain any power, lose any prestige, suffer any permanent wounds or things of that nature. Runequest has a Cities supplement that back in the 2nd edition days I would gladly roll on and it had all sorts of useful bits to it.

Anyway, when reading a book you're not too fond of, keep looking for things, both positive and negative, that you can take to your own game.